Quote of the Day

Saturday, February 8, 2014
The suggestion that Cuban Americans need to be 'stood up to' is insulting... Our nation is great because we were built on a foundation of freedom and democracy. That is not true in Cuba and we should not pretend it is. The importance of maintaining the embargo is that it stands for the Cuban people's right to be free.
-- Rick Scott, Governor of Florida, on opponent Charlie Crist's response to HBO's Bill Maher that Cuban-Americans should be "stood up to" and the U.S. end the embargo, CNN, 2/8/14

Cuban Doctor Files Lawsuit in Brazil

From Cafe Fuerte (translation by Havana Times):

Cuban MD to File Suit in Brazil

Ramona Matos Rodríguez , the Cuban doctor who left the “More Doctors” program in Brazil, has opened a Pandora’s Box.

After leaving the doctor’s office where she had been located in the remote Pacajás municipality in the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the Cuban sought protection in the heart of Brazilian politics, the capital Brasilia.

Politicians of the Partido Democratas (DEM), in opposition to the government of President Dilma Rousseff, immediately gave their support to the doctor, seeking the advantages in politics these types of cases tend to provide, especially in an election year.

Matos, who remains hosted on the premises of the Chamber of Deputies, was presented to the parliament, and her case taken to an emergency meeting with the Minister of Justice, the Brazilian Lawyers Association and the Public Ministry, besides receiving considerable media attention .

Legal Action

The latest action from DEM, announced its leader Mendonca Filho, is to file a suit at the Ministry of Labor in which Matos demands the portion of her salary (nearly 90%) that goes to the Cuban government.

Payment to members of the Cuban mission takes place through a web of contracts signed between the Brazilian Ministry of Health, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Distributor of Cuban Medical Services S.A.

Matos will also request compensation for alleged moral damages. She says she is “deeply deceived” after she was presented with a contract in Cuba for $1,000 a month of which $400 would be paid to her in Brazil and $600 deposited on the island. She claims that it wasn’t until after her arrival in Brazil that she learned the real amount budgeted for the program’s participants is around US $4,200.

“Brazilian law provides that any person who has the value of their work reduced is suffering unequal treatment and has the right to claim moral damages,” said the DEM Rep. Mendonça Filho who is advising the Cuban doctor in this action.

Beyond the individual suit by Matos, the opposition party plans to present a class action suit against More Doctors, the banner program of Rousseff in the field of public health. This suit would cover all Cuban doctors, forcing the Brazilian government to reimburse them the full value of their wages.

In an interview with the newspaper O Globo, Labor Ministry prosecutor Sebastião Caixeta, said he agreed with the claims of Dr. Matos and said in the coming days he will submit a report recommending the full payment of salaries for Matos and the more than five thousand Cubans who are currently working in Brazil in the More Doctors program.

According to Caixeta, the employment contracts revealed by Matos, signed by Cuban professionals and the Distributor of Cuban Medical Services SA, proves that this is not just a simple scholarship grant, but of common labor relations governed by the laws of the country.

Over 70 Dissidents Arrested in Violent Raids

The Castro regime arrested over 70 democracy activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union ("UNPACU"), a leading opposition group in the eastern provinces.

The arrests took place as shock troops raided various UNPACU meeting points in Santiago. Dissidents were beaten with batons and bike-chains.

Meanwhile, in Palma Soriano, the authorities cracked down on dissidents who had peacefully gathered at a park to protest against the Castro regime's repression.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Cuban Rocker Faces Sham Trial

Gorki Aguila, lead singer of the punk rock group Porno Para Ricardo and ardent critic of the Castro dictatorship, faces another sham trial next week.

As Gorki stated in an international appeal this week:

"I have been an opponent of the regime for a long time. They don’t miss the opportunity to try link us and discredit us in common crimes in order to silence us in some way. They are going to hold a trial on the 11th of February at 8:30am in Marianao in the hall of a trial. It is a summary trial. It is a trial that I believe is profoundly unjust because the defense does not have access to the case files of the prosecution. These types of trials are customarily done in totalitarian countries. They are extremely fast trials done in a series and are fabricated and decided beforehand. That’s why I appeal to all who want to show their solidarity because this can be very dangerous for me since they always want to find ways to jail me.

See his video message below (or here):

Shanker Institute Condemns Repression Against Prominent Afro-Cuban Dissident

The renowned public education and labor non-profit, The Albert Shanker Institute, has expressed its concern to the Castro regime about the arrest and pursuant repression against prominent Afro-Cuban dissident, Manuel Cuesta Morua.

See the letter below (or here):

shankerinst

A Civil Rights Movement is Happening in Cuba

Friday, February 7, 2014
In honor of Black History Month, the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group is highlighting the courageous leaders of the 1960's U.S. civil rights movement and those in Cuba today.

"This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real promises of democracy" - Martin Luther King Jr.

Call your Congressman today (click here) and ask them to stand with Cuba's pro-democracy opposition.

#FreedomFirst

The image below speaks for itself:

Bernie Sanders Wants to Outsource U.S. Jobs to Cuba

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is leading a Congressional boondoggle to Cuba today.

Sanders, a champion of worker's rights and an outspoken leader against trade and outsourcing by U.S. corporations, will surely denounce the unscrupulous desire of business interests to partner with Castro's monopolies and exploit the island's captive labor.

After all, here's Sanders denouncing trade with the democratic nations of Korea, Colombia and Panama:

"We cannot keep outsourcing our future to low-wage countries by passing even more unfettered free trade agreements... Politicians and editorial writers tell us how many American jobs will be created by the passage of unfettered free trade deals before they get signed into law; once they are passed the CEOs of multi-national corporations tell us the truth and in fact ship American jobs to low-wage countries."

And here's Sanders denouncing outsourcing with authoritarian regimes:

"Corporate America must invest in the United States and stop the outsourcing of jobs to China, Vietnam and other low-wage countries."

And in a campaign ad:

"We have to say corporate America, I’m sorry, you can’t continue to throw American workers out on the street and move to China and hire people there at 30 cents an hour and then expect that your products are just going to come back into this country."

And yet, when it comes to Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship, Sanders strongly supports outsourcing:

"American businesses are losing billions of dollars because of the economic embargo. Meanwhile, Canadians and Europeans are creating jobs through their investments in Cuba."

#Hypocrisy.

U.N. Working Group Calls for Imprisoned Labor Leader's Release

The U.N.'s Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ("WGAD"), part of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for the release of Cuban independent labor leader, Ulises Gonzalez Moreno.

Gonzalez Moreno was imprisoned on November 15, 2012, for his organizing activities. He was accused of "pre-criminal social dangerousness," a nefarious charge commonly handed to political prisoners.

The WGAD has labeled Gonzalez Moreno's imprisonment as "arbitrary" and called for his "immediate release."

Wonder whether "worker's champion," U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), will intervene on his behalf this weekend with the Castro regime.

Rubio on Cuba, CELAC's Hypocrisy

In his opening statement during this week's confirmation hearing for various U.S. Ambassadors in the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) discusses the human rights situation in Cuba and the hypocrisy of CELAC's democratically-elected leaders.

See below (or click here) to watch:

Menendez Had Warned About Alfy Fanjul

Thursday, February 6, 2014
During last year's U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC luncheon, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) had warned about Alfy Fanjul and his cohorts.

Watch below (or here) at the 7:25 mark and then, more specifically, at the 13:00 mark.

Note to Reuters: Being Pro-Democracy is Not "Anti-Cuba"

Reuters ran an interesting article about U.S. policy toward Cuba today.

But the first paragraph shows an unfortunate bias:

"U.S. relations with Cuba are at their best in almost two decades, but President Barack Obama seems unwilling or unable to confront a well-organized anti-Cuba lobby and push for further progress."

Adopting the propaganda and rhetoric of the Castro regime, Reuters has chosen to label those who favor freedom, democracy and human rights as being "anti-Cuba."

Has Reuters now decided to label anyone who opposes the Castro dictatorship as being "anti-Cuba"?

Has Reuters now chosen to equate Cuba to its dictatorship?

Are those who advocate for freedom in Syria and Iran considered "anti-Syria" and "anti-Iran"?

Have all dissidents and expatriates who have opposed tyranny throughout history been "against their homeland"?

Was Mandela "anti-South Africa", Walesa "anti-Poland" and Havel "anti-Czech"?

To the contrary, there is nothing more "pro-Cuban" than advocating for democracy, freedom and human rights.

Quote(s) of the Day: On Cuban Doctors in Brazil

[Non-Cuban doctors contracted by Brazil] can travel on their vacations and on free days, and bring their families. I felt watched even at home.
-- Dr. Ramona Matos Rodríguez, Cuban doctor who defected in Brazil, AFP, 2/6/14
The Federal Medical Association supports the doctor who had the courage to flee from a totally unfavorable situation.  It's a situation of semi-slavery, as we've denounced to the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Labor.
-- Dr. Luiz D`Avilla, president of Brazil's Federal Medical Association, on Cuban doctor who defected in Brazil, CBN, 2/6/14.

Tweet of the Day: From Brazilian Legislator

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
From Brazilian legislator Ronaldo Caiado:

Brazil pays nearly US$4,5000 for each doctor in the program, but the Cuban doctors receive less than 10% of that amount. 

Cuban Doctor in Brazil Seeks Asylum

From Reuters:

Cuban doctor defects in Brazil over pay, seeks asylum

A Cuban doctor working in Brazil sought asylum on Wednesday complaining that Cuba's communist government takes too big a slice of her pay, authorities said.

Ramona Rodriguez, 51, sought refuge on Tuesday in the office of Ronaldo Caiado, leader of the center-right Democratas party in the lower chamber of Brazil's Congress, and slept the night on a sofa.

She is one of 7,378 Cubans who are in Brazil as part of a program that hires foreign doctors to tend the sick in slums and remote rural locations where there are no Brazilian physicians.

Under an agreement signed last year with Cuba through the Pan-American Health Organization, or PAHO, the Cubans get only one-fifth of the 10,000 reais ($4,100) a month that Brazil pays each physician in the program. The rest goes to the Cuban state.

The Cubans get paid 800 reais in Brazil and 1,200 reais are deposited in an account in Cuba for their families, who are not allowed to accompany them to Brazil.

Rodriguez arrived in Brazil in October and was working in Pacajá, in the Amazon state of Pará, until she took off on the weekend and made her way to the Brazilian capital. She told Brazilian media she felt cheated.

Caiado, waving a copy of the PAHO contract in the air during a speech to the chamber, accused President Dilma Rousseff's government of exploiting the Cuban doctors like "slave labor."

Cuban Democracy Leader Antunez Arrested, Missing

From Washington Free Beacon:

Cuban Activist Arrested Ahead of Human Rights Summit

Home of activist ‘Antúnez’ raided before UN Watch human rights event in Geneva
 
A prominent Cuban opposition activist has been arrested ahead of a United Nations-related human rights conference he was expected to attend in Geneva, his supporters said Wednesday.

Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as “Antúnez,” was reportedly arrested with several other activists after Cuban state security forces raided his home around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

Antúnez’s brother Loreto Hernández García, who said he was detained along with Antúnez but later released, called the raid a “high level operation of the political police with fire trucks, six patrol cars, five trucks, approximately four skid trailers of police.”

“The political police painted the house blue, the whole house, all the signs were painted over,” García said. “And they took the television, the computer, they have even taken the pots. They took it all, and what powerfully catches my attention of this that is happening, is that a senior official whose name I do not know said he did not know whether Antúnez returns or is going back to prison.”

Antúnez is the leader of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Front for Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience (OZT Front) and one of Cuba’s most high-profile opposition figures. He spent 17 years in prison and was released amid international pressure in 2007.

Supporters said the arrest could be related to his expected attendance at the upcoming Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, and claimed the Cuban government had been delaying his efforts to get travel documents.

CNN Poll: Castro Most Disliked Tyrant Among Americans

A new CNN-ORC poll shows Cuban dictator Fidel Castro is the most disliked foreign tyrant among Americans.

Castro edges out North Korea's Kim Jong Un and wallops Syria's Bashar al-Assad in unfavorability.

Moreover, Americans have a more favorable view of Iran's Hassan Rouhani than Castro.

No wonder the Castro regime's propagandists are on a full public relations campaign, lobbying the Obama Administration for more "people-to-Castro" (propaganda) tours to whitewash the Cuban dictatorship's repression.

Obama's "Rodman-esque" Cuba Policy

There's been harsh criticism -- and rightfully so -- of former NBA star Dennis Rodman's trips to North Korea, where he and his friends were toured around by the Kim regime, visiting schools, farms, monuments and even a new ski resort.

Rodman "saw" no repression during his visits -- and has since downplayed Kim's brutality (despite rehab).

Needless to say, this is outrageous and plays right into the hands of North Korea's dictatorship.

Yet, sadly, a similar brand of trips are at the heart of the Obama Administration's Cuba policy.

They are known as "people-to-people" travel. 

In announcing his new "people-to-people" travel policy in January 2011 (despite an American hostage being held by the Castro regime), President Obama stated that the purpose of this policy was "to help promote [the Cuban people's] independence from Cuban authorities."

A well-intended goal. But the exact opposite has been happening.

Nearly every "people-to-people" trip approved by the State and Treasury Departments have included visits with Castro regime officials, government ministries and even its repressive organs (e.g. the "Committees for Defense of the Revolution" and the official censors at the "Union of Writers and Artists").

Every single trip has been pre-approved by the Castro regime and includes official government "tour guides."

Every single traveler stays at a luxury hotel owned by the Castro regime and frequents establishments owned by military and intelligence officials, who oversee the island's repressive apparatus.

(Want to promote the "independence" of the Cuban people from the authorities?  At least require all American travelers to stay at "casa particulares.")

Currently, these "people-to-people" tours are more akin to "people-to-Castro" tours.

Don't believe us?

A non-scientific survey of 423 "people-to-Castro" travelers by Friendly Planet Travel, which commercializes these trips, claims that travelers returned from Cuba opining there's little repression and that the U.S. should change its policy.

Not surprisingly, so did Dennis Rodman upon his return from North Korea.

Even the AP recognizes that, "[the survey] could provide ammunition to the harshest opponents of people-to-people travel, who have argued from the beginning that the tours, partially organized in concert with Cuban state-run entities, let the Communist government put its best face forward and hide its warts... In general, the tours tend not to include much contact with Cuban dissidents."

(Note to AP: They are not partially organized in concert with Cuban state entities.  They are completely organized in concert with Cuban state entities.  Also, they include no contact with Cuban dissidents.)

To which the State Department pushed back saying that "people-to-Castro" travel has successfully "contributed to a more realistic and therefore more positive view of Americans and the United States by the Cuban people."

Based on what evidence?

Moreover, what Cubans (whose surname is not Castro) had a negative view of Americans?  Those standing in the long lines at USINT?  Or those risking their lives in make-shift boats?

Americans have always been viewed more positively by Cubans than other foreigners, including Canadians and Europeans, who travel in droves to the island. Maybe that's because Americans hadn't been exploiting their suffering, or coddling their repressors -- until now.

"Being favorably disposed to Cuba and ordinary Cubans should not be confused with endorsing a totalitarian system of government," added the State Department.

Yet that's exactly what these "Rodman-esque" trips are doing -- playing right into the hands of Cuba's dictatorship.

Tweet of the Day: On Most Disliked Tyrants

Over 1,050 Political Arrests in January

Monday, February 3, 2014
As Latin America's democratically-elected leaders paid homage to the Castros and sugar tycoon Alfy Fanjul negotiated investment terms with their dictatorship, over 1,050 courageous Cuban democracy activists were being arbitrarily arrested.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR) has documented 1,052 political arrests during the month of January 2014.

That makes January 2014 the third highest month for repression in the last decade.  Last month, December 2013, was the second highest with 1,123 documented arrests.

These are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented. Many more are suspected.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Diaz-Balart: Fanjul Should Focus on Freedom, Not Lost Mansion

Alfonso Fanjul Should Cry Less for Lost Mansion, More for Pro-Democracy Activists

WASHINGTON — Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) released the following statement on reports of Cuban-American businessman Alfonso Fanjul considering investing in Cuba and its sugar industry.

"I am outraged by reports that a fellow Cuban-American, who has witnessed the atrocities inflicted by the Castro regime, has apparently chosen short-term profit over standing with the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom.

Some might be blind to the Castro regime's brutality and ruthless oppression, but Alfonso Fanjul's betrayal is compounded because he knows better. He knows very well that any investments made with the Castro regime will not help the Ladies in White, Unión Patriótica de Cuba, the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front, or other pro-democracy groups, but rather, will go straight to the pockets of the Cuban people’s jailers and continue to prop them up. 

Alfonso should cry less for his lost mansion, and more for the imprisoned artists and musicians, oppressed independent journalists, or for the women that are beaten every Sunday for simply wanting to celebrate mass.

Ros-Lehtinen: Fanjul's Actions Are Shameful

Shameful for a Cuban-American Who Fled the Castro Regime to Consider Putting Business Interests Ahead of Cuban People’s Democratic Aspirations, Says Ros-Lehtinen

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, made the following statement on reports of Cuban-American sugar tycoon Alfonso Fanjul considering investing in Cuba. Statement by Ros-Lehtinen:

"At a time when the democracy activists on the island are facing even harsher reprisals from the brutal Cuban regime, it's pathetic that a Cuban-American tycoon feels inspired to trample on the backs of those activists in order to give the communist thugs more money with which to repress. The only little old thing that is standing in Alfy's way of realizing these sleazy business deals with the devil is US law. He doesn't talk about the arbitrary arrests of pro-freedom leaders in Cuba or the continual beatings endured by the peaceful Damas de Blanco. Oh no, for Alfy, the only hindrance to turning a profit off the suffering of the Cuban people is pesky US laws and he is working with groups to undo those laws. It is sickening to read that he brings up the separation of the Cuban family when he is doing all he can to exacerbate that problem. Shame on him. And while Alfy was massaging his future profit deals with Castro's Foreign Minister, there were over one thousand political arrests last month. A new record. What's it all about, Alfy? It's about a people who yearn for freedom and not about a tycoon lining his pockets at their expense."

Sugar Tycoon Eyes Sweet-Deal With Castro

For decades, Alfy Fanjul has enjoyed the support of the Cuban-American community -- not to mention the generosity of American taxpayers.

This support and generosity has allowed him to amass a great fortune.

While amassing this fortune, Alfy pretended to be a great supporter of Cuban freedom.

Now, despite the continued brutality of Cuba's dictatorship, Fanjul wants to invest part of this amassed fortune in the Castro brothers' business monopolies.

According to The Washington Post, Fanjul has been traveling to Cuba, seducing Castro regime officials, in pursuit of business opportunities with the island's repressive dictatorship.

Of course, this is music to the ears of the Castros, who see Alfy as someone who can channel their interests to 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

Sadly, Fanjul knows well that the Cuban people -- his brethren -- are strictly prohibited from engaging in foreign trade and investment. This "privilege" is strictly reserved for Fidel and Raul Castro's monopolies.

But monopolists understand each other.

Fanjul also knows well that repression in Cuba is at record levels; that courageous female activists are subjected to weekly beatings and abuses; that democracy leaders are being mysteriously killed; and that hunger strikers are sacrificing their lives for freedom.

But the rights and dignity of the Cuban people seem to no longer bother him.

Fanjul is now willing to put his business interests ahead of their democratic aspirations. The only remaining obstacles for him are a technicality, namely U.S. sanctions, and profit margins.

To wit, in one of his trips to Cuba with The Brookings Institution, they canceled a scheduled meeting with a renowned democracy leader in order not to offend the Castro regime.

(For the last two-years, Brookings has been pursuing "CELAC-style" engagement with Castro.)

Fanjul is joined in this greedy endeavor by two other Cuban-American businessmen, Carlos Saladrigas and Paul Cejas.

Their track-records aren't comforting. These are the same businessmen that, in private negotiations with former President Bill Clinton in 1994, devised the infamous "wet-foot, dry-foot" policy that still afflicts freedom-seeking Cubans.

(As an aside: Why is it rightfully insulting to refer to Hispanic immigrants as "wet-backs," but outrageously accepted to call Cuban refugees "wet-foots"?)

These were also the same businessmen who in 2000 were "negotiating" a solution to the Elian Gonzalez saga with then-Attorney General Janet Reno. Actually, Saladrigas was literally being distracted (at best) on the phone by Reno as federal agents stormed into the Little Havana home of Elian's family.

And now, they are the enlightened "leaders" who are negotiating with the Castro dictatorship -- for their own self-gain.

Fortunately, this trio is the exception and not the rule.

Last year, as rumors of their immoral dealings with Castros swirled in the community, over a dozen Fortune 500 Cuban-American corporate leaders released a public letter rejecting such actions as a betrayal of the Cuban people's aspirations for freedom.

If Alfy wants to continue his business dealings with the Castro regime -- that's for him to reconcile with his conscience.

But American taxpayers should not fund such immoral aspirations.

Tweet of the Day

Quote of the Day

Sunday, February 2, 2014
Cuba is like the "chupacabras," it's looking for who will give it free money.
-- Vicente Fox, former Mexican President, Proceso, 2/2/14

Pena Nieto Is for Reform, Just Not in Cuba

By Mexican columnist and anchor Carlos Puig in Bloomberg:

Mexico’s Pena Nieto Is for Reform, Just Not in Cuba

Last February, Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderon, posted 22 tweets about Yoani Sanchez, the Cuban dissident blogger. Each tweet was more enthusiastic than the last. “Brave activist for freedom,” Calderon called her.

Ten months earlier, Calderon had been in Havana, on an official trip, dining and smiling with Raul Castro. There was no mention of Yoani or any dissidents and, of course, no visit with them. On the recommendation of the Cuban government, the “activist for freedom” was ignored.

Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s current president, should have set a different example during his recent official visit to Havana. He has, after all, styled himself as a bold reformer, as he boasted last week in Davos, showing off a plan that would allow private investment in Mexico’s energy sector for the first time in half a century.

Yet Pena Nieto had little to say about Yoani, or Guillermo Farinas, or "Las Damas de Blanco" (the Ladies in White), all dissidents persecuted by the Castro regime. That would have been incompatible with one of the main objectives of Pena Nieto’s visit: to have an encounter with Fidel Castro. In what has become a tradition for Latin American and Asian leaders, they go to Havana, wait for a couple of days and suddenly are spirited to some undisclosed location for a moment with the semi-retired old dictator who has mostly given up his green fatigues for Adidas sport suits. On Wednesday afternoon, Pena Nieto pointedly told the news media that he would meet that night with Fidel. “The moral and political leader of Cuba,” he called him -- whatever that means. After that, he would see Raul.

The picture released afterward by the Cuban government -- Pena Nieto talking, Fidel listening -- didn’t come cheap. Last year, Pena Nieto’s administration erased $340 million of Cuba’s debt to Mexico, or about 70 percent of the total amount. That’s more than the value of trade between the two countries, which reached $297 million over the first nine months of last year; $274 million of that represented Mexico’s surplus. The bilateral relationship is otherwise limited. From the Mexican side, at least, the main issue may be the influx of Cubans who use Mexico as a way station to the U.S.

Pena Nieto’s government sold the visit as a “restoration” effort, obliquely referring to the crisis unleashed by the administration of Vicente Fox more than a decade ago. First, Fox met with dissidents in his February 2002 visit to Havana. Then, during a United Nations summit later that year in Monterrey, he asked Fidel to “have lunch and go back to Cuba” to avoid the typical Castro “bano de pueblo” (literally, bathing in the people) in Mexico’s streets that would have overshadowed the event. And finally, for the first time, Mexico voted for a resolution criticizing Cuba in the United Nations Human Rights Commission. Fidel then released a tape of a private telephone conversation with Fox and the relationship became ice cold, close to breaking.

Enrique Pena Nieto was not yet born when Fidel Castro came to power. He was 1 year old when Che Guevara was killed. He started his political life when the Cuban dream was already becoming a nightmare. But Pena Nieto was raised in the land of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI, where the doctrine of “nonintervention” was religion. And a true “priista” may change the constitution to allow investment in oil, but he would not allow for Mexican intervention in another country’s “internal affairs.” Actually, Pena Nieto just showed us that the priista who changes the rules for oil may never change the rules for relations with Cuba.

Yet it isn’t clear what Mexico gains by ignoring the reality that Cuba has no elections, no political parties, no free press or freedom of expression, and that dissidents are harassed and jailed. Certainly, Mexico stands to gain little economic benefit.

Pena Nieto’s choice also raises interesting questions about the character of a government willing to ignore such human-rights violations in a neighboring country. Isn’t such a government more likely to excuse its own human-rights problems, such as the tens of thousands of murders and disappearances during the last decade of drug war?

A couple of days before Pena Nieto’s visit, Yoani Sanchez wrote this on her blog:

The first signs of one more stage set being erected comes via our cellphones. Calls are lost into nothingness, text messages don’t reach their destinations, nervous busy signals respond to attempts to communicate with an activist. Then comes the second phase, the physical. The corners of certain streets teem with supposed couples who don’t talk, men in checked shirts nervously touching their concealed earphones, neighbors set to guard the doors of those from whom, yesterday, they asked to borrow a little salt. The whole society is full of whispers, watchful and fear-filled eyes, a huge dose of fear. The city is tense, trembling, on alert.”

For three days, Yoani and the other dissidents were "unavailable," erased. Pena Nieto did not even look their way. But he got his photo with the old bearded man who has never held an election.